Dubai cyber cops gag Facebook, Twitter accounts

Dubai’s cyber cops have shutdown a number of abusive or defamatory Facebook and Twitter accounts this year, UAE newspaper The National reported on Monday.

The number of online crimes investigated by Dubai Police soared by 124%, from 266 in 2010 to 596 last year, the newspaper added.

There have already been 179 cases investigated in the first quarter of 2012. 

Facebook and Twitter agreed to close the 15 accounts, three last week, following a series of online police patrols, the report added.

Although a top officer told the paper they did not routinely monitor online social media.

"Electronic patrols do not monitor social media websites as they are considered the private matter of the account holder," Maj Salem Obaid, deputy director of anti-electronic crimes at Dubai Police CID, was quoted as saying.

"But in case of a defamation or abuse complaint, our patrols enter these accounts to prove the validity of the claim and collect evidence in the case."

But he said the police had a ‘heavy presence’ on the Internet and closely monitored various chat forums, ensuring they were not havens for exploitation, blackmail, stalking, pornography or narcotics.

"We are present around the clock on the internet and have a similar task of the actual patrols, where we work to discover and prevent many crimes, such as prostitution and drug selling," Maj Obaid said.

The news comes after Maj Gen Khamis Al Mazeina, deputy chief of Dubai Police, said last month that routine monitoring would be a violation of UAE law, for infringing on personal freedom.

People who post insults on social networks face prosecution in the UAE, The National added, quoting Judge Jamal Al Sumaiti, the head of the Dubai Judicial Institute.

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